Classic ‘Dad’ dramas from yesteryear like Bergerac and Shoestring will never feel or look the same way to you again after you watch Mindhorn, a brand new comedy that not so much sends up as skewers the likes of Nettles and Eve in those middle-of-the-road offerings that parents would put on, on a school night after the kids were in bed.
Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt) is a down-on-his-luck actor, whose last big moment in the limelight was a successful show three decades before called Mindhorn, in which he played a detective with a bionic eye. Relegated to doing advertising for obscure products, he is given a lease of life when he is sent by his agent (Harriet Walter) to the Isle of Man (at the request of the local constabulary) to talk with a mysterious figure called ‘The Kestrel’, who has asked for Mindhorn by name, regarding a murder in the vicinity.
Inevitably, Thorncroft misinterprets this as an acting job and winds up the police, notably Chief Inspector Derek Newsome (David Schofield) and DC Baines (the excellent Andrea Riseborough). Complicating matters is his re-acquaintance with old flame Pat Deville (Essie Davis), his former Mindhorn co-star - turned - journalist for local station Manx TV, who sees through his demeanour and is still unhappy with his departure to Hollywood a quarter of a century before…..
Executive-produced by Ridley Scott and Steve Coogan (who also appears in the film), director Sean Foley has crafted a comedy of wide appeal, that hinges on Barratt’s hilariously inept Thorncroft, with a demeanour that would do Will Ferrell’s Anchorman proud. Indeed, Mindhorn can be seen as the British equivalent of that character, with a touch of Ace Ventura thrown in.
Barratt is countered by excellent support from Schofield, Davis and the aforementioned Riseborough and the film moves at a brisk pace during its 89 minutes of screen time. As is often the case with this type of British comedy, it rises and falls on how sympathetic you are towards the characters when they are destined and determined indirectly to screw up.
Mindhorn has the right balance of foolishness and charm, which harks back to those classic Norman Wisdom comedies and the Carry Ons. It doesn’t try too hard to impress the audience. Hot Fuzz might also be it’s most recent comparative in terms of structure and on balance, we are actually keen to see the character revived in either a sequel or a TV series spin-off.
The locations are used effectively and add to the veneer of the film. Whether or not Mindhorn will bring tourists flocking to the island is a matter of judgement, but it is a fine effort and Barratt will undoubtedly continue to offer more of his evident talent in the future.
MINDHORN / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: SEAN FOLEY / SCREENPLAY: JULIAN BARRATT, SIMON FARNABY / STARRING: JULIAN BARRATT, ANDREA RISEBOROUGH, ESSIE DAVIS, DAVID SCHOFIELD, STEVE COOGAN / RELEASE DATE: 5TH MAY